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You are in a rush, want some cash from the ATM,  and are ready to rumble to your next destination.  Then the unthinkable happens!  The ATM returns neither your card nor the money you expected.

We provide recommendations on what to do if your card is "eaten", in addition to prudent strategies to employ when using ATMs.


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Travel Advice - What to do when the ATM eats your card

One of the most discomforting money issues that can occur while you are traveling is to have an ATM swallow your card during an attempted transaction. If it is a weekend, you may not see your card again until the bank re-opens. (You did use an ATM at a bank?) Getting your ATM card back usually delays travel and, if you have not managed your pocket cash effectively, can spell disaster (see our article Take a blend of cash and  cash equivalents for suggestions on how to avoid this situation).

Most of us have great faith in ATMs and have not had a “bad experience” using these handy cards. Most of the time, we use  ATMs provided by "our personal bank" and know that if there is a problem, we can visit or telephone the bank to discuss an immediate remedy.

The same feeling of satisfaction is absent while using ATMs on the road, especially when traveling internationally.

  • Although a variety of networks allow you to use ATM cards internationally, customer service degrades significantly if you are not dealing with your “home” bank.
  • It degrades even further if the ATM is not part of a reputable bank network.
  • We advise that you use only those ATMs  physically located at a bank or bureau de change rather than  stand-alone ATM kiosks.
    • ATMs in airport arrival halls usually are managed by one of the airport's authorized businesses and should be OK to use.
  • The main reason for using ATMs physically connected with banks lies in the possible malfunction of the ATM.
    • If the ATM at the bank “eats” your card, at least your card is in the bank and not sitting in a machine with an unknown service schedule.
    • If your card is "eaten" at an ATM Kiosk, it may prove difficult to determine when the machine will be serviced or to contact the company responsible for servicing the kiosk to arrange for return of the card.


If your card is not returned after a transaction at an ATM located in a bank:

  • Discuss the issue with a bank official (who has a stake in seeing that the machine is repaired and in working order as soon as possible, to serve the needs of their customers).
    • Usually the ATMs process cards on a cycle and the bank staff will not be able to retrieve your card from the ATM for approximately one half hour.
    • Be prepared to identify yourself and fill out personal documentation before they return your card.

If your card is “eaten” in an after hours transaction (at a bank):

  • You will need to wait for the bank to open before you can retrieve your card.
  • Although our experience is that ATM’s do not often “eat” ATM cards, we have had this happen during travel.
  • If you absolutely cannot wait for the bank to reopen, abandon your card and immediately call the card issuer, provide details of the situation, and request immediate cancellation of the card and determine if they can provide a new one to you at one of your destinations (this may be very difficult if not impossible).


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